Agents prepare to meet extra demand for female jockeys
While passions continue to be inflamed over the debate surrounding the introduction of a 2kg (4.4lb) weight allowance for female jockeys in France on March 1, two of the country's leading agents believe the women on their books are about to become a lot busier.
Weighing room doyen Thierry Jarnet, however, described the thinking behind France Galop's initiative as a setback for equality in racing.
Helen Barbe – who guided the career of Christophe Lemaire and who represents Gregory Benoist and Alexis Badel – says the new measure will undoubtedly increase demand from trainers for the best women on the circuit, while the agent of last year's top female rider says he expects his star client to be spending much more time in the Paris region as opposed to the provinces.
Maryline Eon topped the rankings with 24 wins on the Flat in 2016, and her agent Patrick Andorin said on Thursday: "There are plenty of trainers who've already contacted me and it will make a difference for Maryline.
"They'll be much better off using someone who is the Cravache d'Or, has plenty of experience and can now claim two kilos, rather than an apprentice who has yet to win 40 races. If you can take two kilos off it's an enormous advantage."
Eon began her career over jumps but with the encouragement of Andorin and boss Alain Couetil began to get more rides on the Flat.
Andorin continued: "If she'd struggled on the Flat once she lost her claim she could have gone back to riding over jumps, but with this measure she'll certainly be staying on the Flat.
"I think it’s a good initiative in terms of getting women to ride more regularly at Paris tracks."
Chantilly-based Barbe expects increased opportunities for her own protege but says she has yet to receive any contact from jockeys in Britain or Ireland looking to exploit the new arrangement.
"At the end of last year I took on a girl who I think is talented, Alison Massin," said Barbe. "I wasn’t aware of the new rule coming through when I took her on. I've already had many trainers get in touch who are interested in using her, but I've had no contact from anyone in Britain or Ireland."
Jarnet, whose partner Sandrine Tarrou is an accomplished trainer, added his voice to those who believe the allowance is a retrograde step.
"I don't think it's the right solution, I think it demeans women," he said. "If a woman's good she's well able to participate on level terms with the guys.
"We want equality between the sexes and I think this sets that cause back. I don't think trainers will in any case be falling over themselves just to give women more opportunities because of the allowance."
Jarnet, 49, has been sidelined since aggravating an old knee injury in a stalls incident at Deauville last November.
He added: "I'm still convalescing and due to have further treatment on February 22 because the knee's still not right. There's still a little way further to go."